Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Some years ago, my wife and I were at this couples party at church, and they played a game that is sort of like that old TV show, "Let's Make a Deal." Everybody brought some "white elephant" gifts - something you really wanted to get rid of. Of course, all these castaway gifts were nicely wrapped so no one knew what was inside. Then one person has to go to the gift pile, pick one, and they open it. From that point on, each person has a choice: take one of those unopened treasures, or give one of those unopened gifts in exchange for something that's already been opened - something that you know you want. Now, at this particular party, there was one particular object - this hand-carved lamp stand - that everybody wanted. It was one of the few things of value. And it didn't matter what lengths a person went to in order to conceal that lamp stand, the next trader inevitably would remember where it was and they'd go for it. Actually, the dealing got very animated, and in fact, almost dangerous at times. Everybody was up for grabs, except for one person - the woman who had opened the first gift. See, she remembered the rules of the game - that since the first person didn't get to make a trade, they get to make the last trade of the game. Through all the turmoil, she knew who was going home with that lamp stand!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Our friend, Vicki, is one very happy woman. For many years now, she has carried a heavy load of nagging credit card debt. If you've ever been in debt for a while, you know how it always weighs you down like this heavy burden on your back. Well, Vicki recently came into some money through an inheritance, and you know what she did with it! She had a party - a check writing party! All those debts are paid, and you can tell she feels like she just got out of prison!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

There was almost no first Thanksgiving. There almost were no Pilgrims. Those Pilgrims who landed at Plymouth Rock got hit very hard their first winter. Many of them died, and many more could have died from starvation if it hadn't been for one man - an Indian brave they called Squanto. As a young man, he'd been kidnapped and carried off to England to be a servant. While Squanto was there, he learned English and he learned about Christ. Because of the kindness of some people he met, he eventually made it back across the Atlantic to his people, except his people weren't there anymore. While he was gone, they'd been wiped out by an epidemic. He was the only one left. This was a man who knew a lot of tragedy and he knew a lot of hurt, but still he reached out to those early Plymouth settlers, struggling to survive. He taught them what his people knew about how to grow crops in that environment. He helped to build bridges between them and the Native Americans who surrounded them. He understood their language, he understood their faith, and he saved their lives.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Today's children have barely even heard of the disease, but when I was a kid, it was every parent's greatest fear for their child - that crippling, sometimes deadly, disease called polio. I can distinctly remember how my mother didn't even want me to be in big crowds because of how polio seemed to spread so quickly. But then along came the vaccine. We all got our shots and we were immune to polio. Since then, there are a lot more shots like that for everything from smallpox, to tetanus, to the flu. And they all work basically on the same principle: in essence, you get a little of the virus injected into your system so that your body will build up an immunity to what could otherwise cripple you or kill you. That kind of immunization can save your life. But, on the other hand, immunization can be really dangerous - even deadly.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was not only the creator of Sherlock Holmes, but apparently, he was a creative practical joker, too. The story is told of one horrendous - although clever - practical joke that he played one time. He just wrote a short, unsigned telegram - all in fun - to 12 of the best known men in England. The anonymous message was the same - only six words - six scary words, "All is discovered. Flee at once." As the story goes, within 24 hours not one of those men could be found.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was not only the creator of Sherlock Holmes, but apparently, he was a creative practical joker, too. The story is told of one horrendous - although clever - practical joke that he played one time. He just wrote a short, unsigned telegram - all in fun - to 12 of the best known men in England. The anonymous message was the same - only six words - six scary words, "All is discovered. Flee at once." As the story goes, within 24 hours not one of those men could be found.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

It was one of Daddy's great vacation adventures! I announced to the family that we were going to climb Panther Mountain that day. The idea was greeted with underwhelming enthusiasm, but off we went, hiking up the gentle uphill trail that would get us to our goal: the rock fortress I had been told was at the top. As we trudged up the trail, my wife kept pointing out nice things along the way, "Oh, look at the chipmunk! Look at that tree growing out of the rock! Oh, don't you love the sound of the wind blowing through the pines?" I would smile and politely acknowledge her little observations, all the while keeping my mind firmly focused on the real reason for this activity - getting to the top of the mountain. You can imagine how unthrilled I was when my wife suddenly said, "Well, the kids are getting tired, and this has been a really neat hike. Let's head back." Head back? We were only half way to our goal? If we went back now, this would all have been a waste of time!

Monday, November 6, 2006

I was traveling to South Africa, and I had this 18-hour flight layover in Rome, and I wanted to see as much of it as I could. A friend of mine picked me up at the airport and began our whirlwind day by taking me to the Coliseum. As we left, we were surrounded by five or six gypsy children who started talking all at once. My friend actually told me to hang onto my stuff, which I desperately tried to do. I had my wallet in my front pants pocket as a precaution, my passport in my sport jacket, a camera bag, and an umbrella because it was raining. Those kids were good at what they did. They did everything to distract us as they tried to grab something of value. Well, my friend fended them off using his umbrella like a sword, and then we breathed a sigh of relief as we checked to see if we had everything. We had just rounded a corner when I saw this little gypsy girl - maybe five years old or so - running over the hill toward us. She was waving something blue in her hand. It was my passport. Unbeknownst to me, the kids had gotten my passport, and unbeknownst to them, this little girl had brought it back to me. It was a good thing - I wasn't about to get into South Africa without my passport!

Friday, October 6, 2006

It was the house Grandma and Granddad built with a little help from their granddaughter, who also happens to be my wife. That was over 40 years ago. Grandma and Granddad are gone, and the house has been in the hands of renters for a number of years. And the landlord, my wife's dad, lived hours away. His age and his health prevented him from keeping up with what was happening to the house and to the land around it, too. When he deeded that house to my wife and her sister, they weren't real pleased with what had happened over the years. The house was run down; the carpet was infested with bugs; various encroachments had slowly whittled away about three acres of the property, and fences had been moved. That's a long list. And nobody in the family had to do anything to accumulate this mess. All we had to do was do nothing.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Occasionally I see that bumper sticker that says, "I brake for antique shops." I'm not a bumper sticker guy, but we could qualify for that one. I guess it depends on who's driving - my wife or me. If it's my wife, we're a lot more likely to break for an antique shop. But my wife is not so much into collecting old stuff, it's about finding items that she had as a girl growing up on a farm that had few modern conveniences. And she's got an eye for what's real and what's just a reproduction: Depression Glass, pottery, butter churns, even old violins. Take the famous Stradivarius violin - there are relatively few originals. There are a lot of copies.

            

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